Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Bookseller Takes a Stand: No More Advertising From Author Solutions, Inc.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've written many hundreds of words on this blog about the problems with Author Solutions, Inc., the biggest of the self-publishing service providers and the one with (as far as I'm aware) the worst reputation. Misleading PR strategies, overpriced marketing services, customer service nightmares, payment issues, relentless upselling--the list goes on.

Author Solutions is currently the focus of a class action lawsuit for alleged deceptive business practices.

And yet, despite the huge and growing litany of complaints and problems, many reputable publications accept advertising from Author Solutions--advertising that doubly exploits AS authors, not only because they have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to be included, but because magazine and newspaper ads are arguably among the least effective book promotion methods. For instance, The Bookseller, the UK's equivalent to the USA's Publishers Weekly. As author and self-publishing expert David Gaughran wrote in 2013,
Author Solutions has a variety of (what they call) Bookseller Magazine packages – ranging from £2,199 (approx. $3,300) to a jaw dropping £6,999 (approx. $10,500). When you see how many books they squeeze into one page, it’s clear that this is quite lucrative for them. I don’t know what The Bookseller charges for ad space, but I’m sure Author Solutions are adding a significant mark-up (as they do with all their services).
But now--good news. Gaughran has announced on his blog that The Bookseller will no longer accept Author Solutions advertising.
Last week, [Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller] told me that The Bookseller is no longer accepting such ads. Here’s the money quote, reproduced with permission:

The Bookseller is no longer taking advertising from Author Solutions or its subsidiary companies. We’ve previously asked them to update the information they display about us on their websites, and have now asked them to remove it entirely.
This is wonderful, and kudos to The Bookseller for taking this action. However, as Gaughran points out:
Advertising packages with The Bookseller were just one of many such packages that Author Solutions re-sold to its customers at eye-watering prices. You can still buy packages to advertise with the London Review of Books, Guardian Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, New York Review of Books, Readers’ Digest, ForeWord, Clarion, Ingram, and the New York Times.
So there's much more that needs to be done. Writer Beware joins David Gaughran in calling for these publications to follow The Bookseller's example, and stop taking money from a company whose advertising is little more than an exercise in author exploitation.

In fact, I'll go further: I'll call on ALL publications to stop taking ANY ads from self-publishing services and pay-to-play publishers where authors must pay to be included. Whether the ads are from Author Solutions brands or Outskirts Press, Bookwhirl or New Generation Publishing, these are exploitive packages that do not benefit the writers who buy them.

How can you help? Gaughran offers several suggestions:
[A]sk Publishers Weekly when they are going to stop taking ads from vanity presses, ads which Author Solutions re-sell for $16,499 to authors. Email them and ask them. Even better, confront them publicly. Hound them on Twitter. Annoy them until you get a response. Post it on your Facebook Page. Post it on their Facebook Page.

Ask the LA Times Festival of Books what they think about Author Solutions scamming writers out of a million dollars at their event. Ask them on Facebook and Twitter what they are going to do to stop that happening again this year. Ask all the companies listed above about their links to Author Solutions.

Then ask the Authors Guild when they are going to break their silence on this issue, why the only advice they give on self-publishing is a package with iUniverse, and if they receive any financial benefit from such referrals.

13 comments:

Katherine Pickett said...

Great post! I love this blog -- the most informative I've seen. Already shared this on Twitter.

Michael Capobianco said...

I really would be interested to know more about the Authors Guild's Backinprint.com, which time has changed from an innovative program fifteen years ago to a strange relic today. The fact that it's a tacit endorsement of iUniverse and Author Solutions makes it even more of an anachronism and embarrassment. I hope that the AG will either re-think or abolish it.

T Hill said...

Very informative. Thank you so much for sharing.

Jennifer at WriteKidsBooks said...

All these "services" are so slimy. Keep up the hard work of making mainstream publications accountable!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michele deFilippo said...

Thank you, Victoria, for continuing to shine a light on this subject. At least once a week, I talk to an author who was exploited by one these companies. The production values of the books they produce are abysmal. Sadly, by the time authors realize what has happened, their funds have been exhausted and their only option is to abandon the book. The alternative is to self-publish the legitimate and original way. I invite you to download my free PDF eBook, "Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing" at http://1106design.com

Natalie Wood said...

I'm thinking of using 'Book Baby'. What are people's views on this?

Sharon Lippincott said...

Bravo. I continually warn people against these scammers.

Victoria Strauss said...

Hi, Natalie--

I think BookBaby has a pretty decent reputation as a self-pub service--it's certainly among the lower-priced.

Peg said...

I take issue with this comment that Victoria makes: "advertising that doubly exploits AS authors, not only because they have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to be included, "

I checked her links, which lead to XLibris, a competitor of Author Solutions, and the costs for advertising in Ingraham Catalogs is exactly the same as quoted by Author Solutions.

Granted, Author Solutions is not a pristine organization, but I have done my research, and XLibris is also poorly reviewed by some authors who formerly published through them. You have to do your homework. You have to know what you are getting into. If in fact you know what you need, you can work with almost anyone to get your product produced the way you want. The onus is on the author... otherwise, go the route of selling your book to traditional publishers, where you lose much of your control.

Victoria Strauss said...

Peg,

Xlibris was once an independent company, but Author Solutions bought it a number of years ago. Author Solutions' marketing offerings and prices are the same across all its "brands", including Xlibris.

koifish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judith Briles said...

Blogger koifish said...
I suspect that I have a target on my back from the Author Solutions empire and I know that its legal time watches what gets posted on the Author U group on LinkedIn.

If there is an Evil Empire in self-publishing, it's this one. The misrepresentation, blatant seduction that is routine, AS and it's kindred win the prize. The tears, anger, extreme frustration that I hear weekly will fill volumes. The heart and soul of so many books and authors have been ripped out.

These companies pursue until the credit card maxes out. Author Beware, Author Beware, Author Beware.